Right now we’re in the midst of one heck of a land grab. Bolstered by the Fortnite billions, Epic is not only looking to take on PC gaming’s biggest institution, it’s looking to crush it.
Valve has enjoyed well over a decade of unchecked dominance in the PC gaming scene. If you had a game worth playing, you made sure you launched it through the only PC sales platform a lot of people think is worth using. Steam has been the one-stop shop for everything PC games, but its dominance over the biggest names in gaming isn’t so much eroding as it is in danger of a full-blown landslide.
EA? Long gone thanks to its own Origin store. Bethesda? It looks like curtains for Bethesda’s future games on Steam. Activision? Joined forces with Battle.net. Ubisoft? It looks likely Far Cry New Dawn could be the final Ubisoft Steam release. Metro Exodus? Gone. The Division 2? Gone. Fortnite, the biggest game in the world? It never even needed Steam.
There’s an argument to be made then that Valve has already lost its vice-like grip on PC gaming. Steam isn’t the only game client you need any more.
But, aside from Fortnite, there’s still little proof that avoiding Steam can actually achieve success. Ubisoft briefly flirted with Uplay exclusivity before it came crawling back. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has become a wasteland on PC. And, well, it’s hard to judge how well Fallout 76 would’ve done on Steam when it’s become such a high-profile failure anyway.
The likes of Epic can pay for the games but it can’t just pay for trust or loyalty. Epic’s store needs to be a platform gamers want to use, not forced to use because there’s no other choice. And, with Epic’s current barebones feature set, it's difficult to argue a reason you’d want to use its storefront over anywhere else.
So no matter how deep Epic’s pockets, it’s got an uphill battle on its hands that can’t necessarily be solved by just throwing cash around. Games like Metro Exodus will sell less now they’re exclusive to the Epic Store. One of the most anticipated PC games of the audience will have a fraction of the audience it would’ve if it were on Steam. That’s a fact. In this situation, you’ve got to feel for developer 4A Games, who would’ve had little say in the matter. Money talks though, and you can bet an absolute boat-load was thrown Deep Silver’s way to get this deal done.
And while the games will surely help, Epic surely needs to make the Epic Games Store is a great, feature-rich experience that can actually deserve the label of ‘Steam competitor’. It needs cloud saves, for god’s sake. It needs chat overlays, a workable storefront, regional pricing, consumer-friendly refunds, discussion boards, user reviews, and big sales. It needs a whole lot which, right now, it doesn’t seem like Epic is even particularly interested in. Instead, it’s moneyhat time.
Which got me thinking about how deep Epic’s pockets are. Very deep, I suspect is the answer. Epic has billions of dollars and it will spend billions until this works. It needs to make this work before the cash cow that is Fortnite runs out of milk.
If I’m sat in Epic CEO Tim Sweeney’s chair I’ve got one game on my right now. It’s a little thing called Red Dead Redemption 2. And I’ve sat there running the numbers around my head, and they’re definitely absurd. A small percentage loss in sales could cost Rockstar hundreds of millions of dollars. Bringing RDR2 to the Epic Store and getting, say, half the sales it would’ve on Steam, represents a massive loss. A loss that Rockstar would want to be recouped by Epic. But what an accomplishment it would be for Epic. What a reason it would have for millions and millions to install its game client. That's not to say it’ll happen, but I’m these chats have happened, or at the very least are going to happen, and Epic will stop at little to find a way to loosen the valve on Steam’s dominance.
There’s a couple of points to debate here. Firstly, do you think the Epic Games Store will eventually topple Steam as the biggest PC gaming client? Vote in the poll and let us know why below. And secondly, whether it does or doesn’t, how do you believe Epic is going to try to beat Steam? Share your thoughts with us below, and hopefully, Sweeney isn’t watching...